There are no rules, regulations, or even guidelines on how security guards treat drugs they confiscate. It doesn’t matter if it’s weed, LSD, or cocaine, what any security company does with it is entirely up to them. And no company wants to tell us their procedures.
Many weed enthusiasts have had the uncomfortable and embarrassing experience of a security guard confiscating their herb before they can get inside a festival or venue. Where that weed or any other drugs they confiscate end up is a mystery.
It’s important to get a scale of the number of drugs that pass through music festivals. There’s not a lot of hard data on the subject, so we have to make some approximations. About 1/5 Canadians smoked weed last year. If a festival draws 30,000 people, and 1/5 bring a gram of weed, that’s a pretty substantial amount of herb. Priced at 200 dollars an ounce, it’s about $42,857.14.
For other drugs, like cocaine, the use rates are much lower but still substantial. Controlling for the youth population, about 2 percent of Canadians did cocaine in the past 12 months. If 2 percent of the 30,000 people brought a half gram of cocaine, it works out to about $24,000. Canadian youth uses MDMA at about the same rate, and if 2 percent of festival growers bring a gram of MDMA, it’s about $18,000.
Using conservative estimates, about 85,000 dollars of drugs pass through a music festival that draws 30,000 people
It’s reasonable to assume a lot more drugs will be at a music festival because, well, it’s a music festival. However, nowhere near all of the drugs get confiscated at the gate, but some of them inevitably do. Music festivals know drugs are going to come in, but no one attempts to control these substances once they’re in the hands of security.
In Ontario, the ministry in charge of overseeing the security industry is the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services. Security companies are heavily regulated, but those regulations are reasonable. For example, security guards can’t impersonate law enforcement. If a security guard does, he and his company face penalties. The Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment.
These regulations are in the Private Security and Investigative Services Act. The only mention of drugs in the PSIS act is about criminal background checks for potential security guards.
Since there are no top-down regulations, it’s up security companies to set their own rules. I called a dozen different event security companies in the Greater Toronto Area; none would go on the record or share their strategies. One representative at a security company told me, “I’m pretty sure there’s a box they put everything in.” That representative wouldn’t elaborate further. The company didn’t respond to further requests for comment.
If security companies turn drugs they confiscate over; it would make sense they would turn them over to the police. A spokesperson for the Toronto police said, “I’m pretty sure there was a box at VELD,” but didn’t elaborate further.
VELD is a popular music festival that draws about 30,000 people. The Toronto Police didn’t respond to multiple requests for further comment.
So, thousands of grams of illicit substances worth hundreds of thousands of dollars are unaccounted for by police, the province, and security companies. Perhaps there should be some rules.